The poet and essayist Lia Purpura will help lead the second “Earth’s Eye: A Festival of Writing in and of the Natural World” at Presque Isle State Park on Sept. 7. She will discuss, among other things, how to use details to improve a story – a skill she honed while hunting for beach glass.
“These are hidden gifts,” she wrote in 2011, “and to find them takes an eye trained for certain tones, colors and shapes, amid all the purply siren calls of clam shells, of scallop shell crimps and fractal flutings, the rough iridescence of oyster shells, the mussels’ seductive, wet, midnight shine.”
Faculty members from the Bachelor of Fine Arts program at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, coordinate the festival, which is open to writers of all skill levels. The program includes field work, guided writing exercises, panel discussions and a talk by Purpura, whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Ploughshares and other magazines.
The cost to attend is $36 if paid before July 31. Later registrations will cost $40.
Poets, diarists, naturalists, bird watchers and teachers can all benefit from the Presque Isle setting, said Kim Todd, assistant professor of English and creative writing and author of three books.
“It really does focus you,” she said. “When you’re out there, and you ask yourself those questions – Where are you? What are you seeing? – it can heighten your senses.”
Participants will explore different ecosystems within the 3,200-acre park, which is a resting spot for birds migrating on the Atlantic Flyway. They will have opportunities to work with Purpura, a writer in residence at the University of Maryland, and award-winning faculty members from Penn State Behrend’s creative writing program.
Purpura also will read from her work and sign books at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 5, at Penn State Behrend’s Larry and Kathryn Smith Chapel. That event is free and open to the public.
For more information about the “Earth’s Eye” festival, or to register, call 814-898-6443 or visit Behrend.psu.edu.